David, that he may humble all men before God, from the highest to the lowest, celebrates his terrible power in the various wonders of nature, which he affirms are not less fitted to arouse us to give glory to God, than if he were to assert his empire and majesty with his own voice. After he has struck fear into the proud, who are reluctant to yield, and addressed an exhortation to them accompanied by a gentle reproof, he sweetly invites the faithful voluntarily to fear the Lord.
A Psalm of David.
1. Give unto Jehovah, ye sons of the mighty, give unto Jehovah glory and strength. 2. Give unto Jehovah the glory of his name;1 worship before Jehovah in the brightness of his sanctuary. 3. The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters; the God of glory thundereth; Jehovah is upon the great waters. 4. The voice of Jehovah is in strength, the voice of Jehovah is in beauty.
"A fugitive from heaven and prayer,
I mocked at all religious fear,
Deep scienced in the mazy lore
Of mad philosophy; but now
Hoist sail, and back my voyage plough
To that blest harbour which I left before.
"For, lo! that awful heavenly Sire,
Who frequent cleaves the clouds with fire,
Parent of day, immortal Jove;
Late through the floating fields of air,
The face of heaven serene and fair,
His thund'ring steeds, and winged chariot drove," etc.6
Experience, too, tells us that those who are most daring in their contempt of God are most afraid of thunderings, storms, and such like violent commotions. With great propriety, therefore, does the prophet invite our attention to these instances which strike the rude and insensible with some sense of the existence of a God,7 and rouse them to action, however sluggish and regardless they are. He says not that the sun rises from day to day, and sheds abroad his life-giving beams, nor that the rain gently descends to fertilise the earth with its moisture; but he brings forward thunders, violent tempests, and such things as smite the hearts of men with dread by their violence. God, it is true, speaks in all his creatures, but here the prophet mentions those sounds which rouse us from our drowsiness, or rather our lethargy, by the loudness of their noise. We have said, that this language is chiefly directed to those who with stubborn recklessness, cast from them, as far as they can, all thought of God. The very figures which he uses sufficiently declare, that David's design was to subdue by fear the obstinacy which yields not willingly otherwise. Thrice he repeats that God's voice is heard in great and violent tempests, and in the subsequent verse he adds, that it is full of power and majesty.
1 "C'est, digne de son nom." -- Note, Fr. Marg. "That is, worthy of his name."
2 The entire reading of the verse in the Septuagint is, "
3 The Hebrew word which Calvin renders "mighty," is
4 The Chaldee paraphrases it thus:-- "The assembly of angels, sons of God," meaning by God angels.
5 This translation conveys a somewhat different meaning from that of our English version; but it is supported by several critics. Green reads, "In his beautiful sanctuary;" and Fry, "Worship Jehovah with holy reverence," or, "Worship Jehovah in the glorious places of the sanctuary." "Where the Hebrews read
6 Dr Francis' Translation of Horace.
7 "Qui contraignent les barbares et gens esbestez sentir qu'il y a un Dieu." -- Fr. "Which constrain the rude and insensible to feel that there is a God."